In sport, what’s the difference between winning and losing? Achieving your goals and failing?

There’s a few reasons, and some that are harder to control than others, but one of the most important factors is your pain tolerance.

Now we obviously have pain receptors for a reason, otherwise you’d be burning your hand, standing on nails or tearing muscles every other week without noticing!

What I mean by this is your tolerance of discomfort. When your brain is telling you to stop and your muscles and lungs are burning.

Take an 800m race for example – half a mile in old money. Your typical race might last 2 minutes.

The discomfort steadily builds as the race progresses as your body can’t get oxygen into the muscles quickly enough to replace what’s being used. By the time you get to the last 100/200m, the lactic acid is building up to a point that your muscles are burning and it feels like a gorilla has jumped on your back. Your heart rate is near maximum and you can barely lift your legs.

If anyone could jump into your body at this exact point then 99.9% of them would swear they were dying!

Is that even healthy? Is it relevant to everyday training?

Yes it’s healthy. There’s something fundamentally satisfying about finding your limits. Most who say “I can’t do that” can. They just haven’t learned to embrace discomfort. And your brain will stop you way before your body will. It’s the weakest link in the whole chain.

And is it relevant to everyday training? If you’re currently training at what you think your maximum is I almost guarantee that for the vast majority of you, you’re not.

If you learn to up that performance bar from time to time then what used be hard becomes easier. You learn to train at a higher intensity and progress at a quicker rate.

Heart rate monitors are a great tool for measuring effort. I wore one during every session for years and the results were enlightening. Too hard on the easy sessions, too easy on the hard sessions. It revolutionised my training (hand in hand with expert coaching from James Young). I found out what my limits were and never looked back. I don’t think I’m the most talented athlete out there but I’ve learned to hurt more than most.

If you’re serious about achieving your goals, teach yourself to enjoy a bit of pain.